The government may loan HK$45 billion to non-profit organisations to run private hospitals in a bid to ease the burden on the public health care sector.
The money will come from a HK$50 billion fund earmarked by the previous administration to support a reform of health insurance intended to persuade more people to use private hospitals instead of the overburdened public health care system.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said: "Increasing the capacity of the private health care sector can ease the current shortage of hospital beds in the public health care sector."
Without revealing further details, Ko said the loans would only be offered to non-profit organisations.
The minister said many patients were forced to use public services after they were unable to secure a booking at a private hospital. He said that had increased the burden on public hospitals already struggling with a staffing crisis.
The government aims to correct the imbalance whereby about 40 per cent of doctors in the public system care for 90 per cent of hospital patients and the other 60 per cent of doctors treat 10 per cent of patients in private hospitals.
The loans proposal is part of the government's planned Health Protection Scheme to encourage the take-up of private insurance that would fund visits to private hospitals.
Under the scheme, all medical insurance policies will have to meet minimum requirements laid down by the government. Part of the HK$50 billion fund, between HK$4.3 billion and HK$5 billion, would be used to develop a "high-risk pool" to insure patients with long-term illnesses, the South China Morning Post revealed last year.
Details of the reform proposals are expected to be announced before the end of June following a public consultation.
The Post earlier revealed that individuals who buy a health insurance package covering all dependents - including their spouse, children and parents - will get an additional allowance against salaries tax.